Carpet is particularly good at absorbing smoke odor and not letting it go. The odors not only get deep into the carpet, but into the underlay below which is nearly impossible to clean. This guide will walk you through a variety of options to clean cigarette smoke odor from carpet. While you can do a lot to clean cigarette smoke odor from carpet, the only way to completely eliminate the odor from carpet is to remove it, scrub the underfloor, and bring in new carpeting or other floor covering.

Replace if You Can

The cost to replace carpet averages around $35 per square foot. Prices can got up or down depending on the exact carpeting you choose. You could also consider laminate or hardwood floors, which come with a lot of benefits.  They are much easier to keep clean, and don’t give dirt, dust, and odors that deep fabric hiding place carpet does.  A number of composite and bamboo based flooring solutions have come to the market in the past decade and offer beautiful flooring solutions at prices comparable to carpet replacement. Check with some local retailers for exact price quotes, and always check online for a few different sources of reviews before making any final decisions about who to work with.

Professional Cleaning

If you don’t want to or can’t replace the carpet completely, the next best option is to start by having it professionally steam cleaned.  This process is generally fairly quick and might cost less than you expect. Professional steam cleaning will do a lot to clean cigarette smoke odor from carpet.

What to Expect

steam cleaning results

Carpet cleaners typically have a power combination machine which both vacuums and steam cleans. They use highly portable hand units with tubes connecting back to the base unit, and can quickly work their way throughout your home to run them over all carpets. The process is very quick. They will go over all carpets once with the hand unit with very powerful results.  They can also be used on any fabric furniture or items, and offer a very powerful steam cleaning solution.  Be sure to identify all fabric surfaces up front and talk to the service provider about it all before the cleaning.  They might be able to steam clean a lot of your fabric surfaces for you.

The carpet cleaning usually takes around an hour for two workers in an averaged size home.  Prices can vary by region, but my personal experience with this type of cleaning has been in the $400 – 500 range. As with the carpet replacement, be sure to get multiple quotes and check around for some reviews before deciding who to work with.

DIY Steam Cleaning

If you are unable to have it professionally steam cleaned, consider buying or renting a steam cleaner and doing it yourself. Steam cleaning really is the best option to clean cigarette smoke odor from carpet, and is a must if you are unable to completely replace the carpeting. You should check with local rental centers, hardware stores, or even chain grocery stores to find those which rent steam cleaners. Rental prices can vary dramatically, so check with local options to get price quotes.  Buying a steam cleaner is also very affordable, as many good options are available in the $80 – 200 price range. See our Steam Cleaners Guide for more info.

Using a Steam Cleaner

Using a steam cleaner is a process of filling a water reserve on the unit and slowly pushing it forward and backward over the carpet surface.  The motion is a lot like vacuuming, but much slower.   The unit heats the water to steam and pushed it into the carpet. Once in the carpet, the highly heated water can penetrate dirt, dust, and odors.  The steam cleaner then sucks the dirty water back into it’s dirty water tank.  It is recommended to use soap with the cleaner to maximize cleaning.  I recommend adding a small amount of vinegar to the mixture as well to help lift odors.

Once you get going, the process is very straightforward.  You will wind up stopping frequently to dump out the dirty water and refill the clean, but it’s a very rewarding to see how dirty the water has become.

Steam Cleaning Process

I’ve had the best luck with this process.

  1. Cover the entire area with hot water, soap for an initial cleaning.  Use the soap to water proportions described on the soap container.
  2. A second pass with equal parts vinegar and water. Once things are already heated and have been allowed to soak with the leftover moisture for a few minutes, a second pass with vinegar can do optimal odor lifting work.
  3. One final pass with just water as a rinse to get rid of any soap or vinegar left behind. This final pass will also still be picking up dirt and dust, but much less of it.

If you do make steam cleaning your carpet a part of your process, it is also a strong candidate as an early step with a second pass at the end of the process.

Baking Soda

With or without steam cleaning, baking soda can be used to absorb as much odor from the carpet as possible.  Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and allow it to sit overnight. Be very liberal with the baking soda.  Remember it’s cheap to buy and powerful at absorbing the odors.   Vacuum it up in the morning.  Be careful not  to walk on it as little as possible while the baking soda is on the carpet, as it might get pushed into the carpet and made more difficult to vacuum out.

I recommend repeating this vacuuming with baking soda step weekly throughout the cleaning process and for a few months after you are finished. If repeated frequently, this is a great solution to take small, incremental steps to clean cigarette smoke odor from carpet.

Don’t Forget the Rugs

Any rugs in the home should be given the same treatment as carpets.  The benefit of rugs is their portability.  They are much easier to get rid of and replace, and that is recommended. If you don’t want to eliminate them, use the same steam cleaning and/or vacuuming process you use on your carpet on them.  You can take the extra step of line drying them in the sun, which will help reduce odor significantly.